Interviewee: Mary King Kneedler
Interviewer: Jane Abernathy Plyler
Dates: October 18 and 19, 1979
Location: Sylva, NC
Mary King Kneedler was born in 1913 in Wilmington, North Carolina. She received a nursing diploma at Duke University Hospital in 1936 and then was educated in public health nursing at Peabody Teacherâs College. She was the first public health nurse in Caldwell County. She married Robert Bailey, who died in the Second World War, and received further education at the School of Public Health in Chapel Hill and at the Teachersâ College at Columbia University, where she obtained a mastersâ degree. She worked as a state nursing consultant for North Carolina, became Chief of North Carolinaâs Public Health Nursing Section in 1953, and married for a second time, to Jay Kneedler, in 1954. She worked on establishing a nursing program at Western Carolina University and served as the Dean of the Nursing School. She died in 2010.
The interview covers her work as a public health nurse. Kneedler explains the nursing tasks she performed, such as immunizations, treatment for venereal disease, health screening in schools, the education and regulation of midwives, and tuberculin testing and tuberculosis sanatoriums. She discusses folk medicine and the role of midwives and other lay medical practitioners in rural communities. She describes her role as public health nurse during World War II, when she promoted the war effort and educated families in first aid to compensate for the scarcity of physicians. Kneedler discusses her own life as a public health nurse, mentioning such things as her salary, housing situation, and difficulties traveling around remote mountain communities as well as the general quality of life for her patients in rural communities. She talks about balancing her work and marriage and about conflicts with supervisors. She discusses her own supervisory experience and her role in creating a nursing program and nursing curriculums. Kneedler discusses the changes in nursing over the course of her career.